Wednesday, 23 August 2017

solar cell

Via Gizmodo, we learn of a potentially truly crowning achievement in the discipline of synthetic biology in the form of an experimental culturing of a strain of bacteria that are more efficient than plants at harvesting the energy of the sun and sequestering carbon-dioxide. They’re considered cyborgs as the molecule the bacteria uses as a photo-receptor is radically different from chlorophyll, and the addition of a few chemicals give the bacteria little crystalline solar panel shields—a natural but overlooked defensive-mechanism to heavy metals in their environment. The by-product of the bacterial respiration is acetic acid, which can be used as a food source for other bacteria or to create bio-fuels and bio-plastics. This process does not need to take place in the laboratory but merely in a vat in the sun and is scalable without the need for manufactured electronic components.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

litfaßsäule or post no bills

Recently, H and I learned that those purpose-built advertising columns like this one in my neighbourhood in Wiesbaden, known as Morris columns in English-speaking venues after the French printer Gabriel Morris who brought them to Paris, are called Litfaßsäule after the Berlin printer and publisher Ernst Litfass who first originated them. Repulsed by disordered pamphleting of walls, storefronts, fences and trees with random advertising and notices, Litfass received permission to erect Annoncier-Säulen in public places the city in 1855 and earned his title König der Reklame (King of Advertisements) by renting advertising space. During the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, the columns also became lighting-rods and showcases for propaganda.  Litfass maintained his monopoly until his death, oddly enough, in Wiesbaden in 1874 and afterwards many municipalities undertook building their own pilasters.

next exit

Marking a year since the photographer’s passing, the US Library of Congress has curated a digital catalogue of over eleven thousand images captured over three decades and a hundred thousand miles of the highways and byways of America of John Margolies.
Margolies’ odyssey sought to collect the vanishing vernacular architecture that embellished roadsides that made potential customers take a second look and made the passing landscape a little less monotonous. Many of these structures are only conserved in Margolies’ archives, which he selflessly placed in the public domain so others would be free to enjoy in the nostalgia and embark on road-trips into a lost past. See much more at the links up top.

Monday, 21 August 2017


Via Nag on the Lake, we not only learn the etymology of the term scofflaw but also how a bar in Paris—a country that’s demonstrated its sensibility previously for not experimenting with government imposed prohibition on alcoholic beverages—took advantage of the ensuing hoopla and stumbled onto buzz-marketing.
A Boston banker and staunch Prohibitionist named Delcevare King, seeing that the experiment was a failing one with the otherwise law abiding flagrantly flouting the law (the constitutional amendment was in force from 1920 until 1933 when it was repealed by a second amendment) and criminal gangs forming to create a lucrative black market, sought to find the perfect derogatory term to shame the misguided into compliance. To that end, King sponsored a contest soliciting the best epithet and enticed over twenty-five thousand entrants with a prize in the form of two hundred dollars-worth of gold—an inconceivable ransom for a wordsmith in 1923 and it made the papers worldwide. King’s efforts to “stab awake the public conscience of law enforcement” choose—over boozeshevik, boozocrat and many others, the neologism scofflaw but was himself made a rather international laughing stock for publicly harbouring such puritanical condemnation. Seizing the opportunity, Harry’s New York bar (an American extract from 1911, shipped to the City of Light) patronised by the expatriate community named a cocktail after the new term. A recipe and review of the Scofflaw can be found at the link above, a clever project linking letters and liquor through history.

Sunday, 20 August 2017


Not contended with merely rubbishing the high office to which he was elected nor making a mockery of the agencies under his purview by installing chiefs antithetical to the cause they’re to champion while being content to allow vital appointment to go unfilled and even thanked Russia for culling its staff at the US mission to Moscow, Dear Leader has thanked fellow serial presidential candidate and “Contract with America” architect Newton “Newt” Leroy Gingrich for his early and consistent loyalty and support with a Holy See ambassadorship for his current and third wife, documentary film-maker, author, political aide and noted adulteress Callista Louis née Bisek—subject to congressional approval.
The grace-and-favour posting to the Vatican has only formally existed since 1984 (as was the case with a lot of non-Catholic majority countries) established and credentialed under Reagan and Pope John Paul II with personal emissaries representing papal and American interests previously. Though I suspect there’s little responsibility or symbolism attached to the job—especially after such an announcement—it still would have been a privilege to be a plenipotentiary along with the some one hundred and eighty countries that maintain diplomatic relations and it has not been without controversy—recently back in 2009 with Pope-Emeritus Benedikt XVI over tensions with Obama’s push for equality in marriage.